Thursday, May 03, 2007

Old Timer Religion

Recently I began to re-read a book I read for the first time a couple years ago. The book is “The Nine Marks of a Healthy Church” by Mark Dever. Mark is Senior Pastor of the Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC and executive director of 9Marks Ministries. I enjoyed the book the first time I read it and benefited greatly from his teaching on church membership and church discipline.

You may be wondering where I am going with this—hold on and I will explain. In my honest opinion, the book as a whole runs counter to most everything pushed in the world of the cultural fundamentalist. This is obviously not an exhaustive list but it is still extremely thought provoking. Just look at the chapter titles alone to see how far many in contemporary Fundamentalism have drifted. Expositional Preaching, Biblical Theology, The Gospel, A Biblical Understanding of Conversion, A Biblical Understanding of Evangelism, A Biblical Understanding of Church Membership, Biblical Church Discipline, A Concern for Discipleship and Growth and Biblical Church Leadership.

What especially caught my eye the other night was a paragraph on page 51 of chapter 1 on the subject of expositional preaching and its transforming power in the sanctification of the believer. Pastor Dever says:

“We need God’s Word to be saved, but we also need it to continually challenge and shape us. His Word not only gives us life; it also gives us direction as it keeps molding and shaping us in the image of the God who is speaking to us.
At the time of the Reformation the Roman Catholic Church had a Latin phrase that became something of a motto: semper idem. It means ‘always the same.’ Well, the Reformed churches, too, had a ‘semper’ motto: ecclesia reformata, simper reformanda secundum verbum Dei. ‘The church reformed, always being reformed according to the Word of God.’ A healthy church is a church that hears the Word of God and continues to hear the Word of God. And such a church is composed of individual Christians who hear the Word of God and continue to hear the Word of God, always being refashioned and reshaped by it, constantly being washed in the Word and sanctified by God’s truth.”

On a recent visit to the region I noticed a billboard that promoted First Baptist of Hammond as an "Unchanging Church for a Changing World". I remember hearing this kind of plug in the past used by churches to describe themselves. No doubt they want to set themselves apart from the seeker sensitive and ever changing churches of our day. In the past I would have never questioned this kind of statement but now when I see this it just hits me differently. You will notice that FBCH has also plastered this statement on the front page of their website.

I realize that to some this will seem petty, but I don't ever want to have the attitude that I have all the answers and a corner on God. Unfortunately this is an attitude that many in Fundamentalism exhibit regularly--especially on topics such as Bible versions, music, church polity, worship styles, matters of separation, etc... We should always want to be in a state of reformation--sensitive to the Spirit and constantly being transformed by the Word of God.

FBCH wants to wear the title "Unchanging Church for a Changing World" like a badge of honor--same old black Book, same old-fashioned preachin', same old tried and true methods and philosophies of ministry, etc... As Jack Schaap has said since taking over the old church downtown, "Same old stuff...just a heap more of it".

This is the kind of Fundamentalism that I want nothing to do with anymore--the kind that is arrogant and vitriolic--the kind that is man-centered and egomaniacal--the kind that is pragmatic, egocentric, and more concerned with empire building than Biblical Christianity.

**I do not wish to imply that Mark Dever has all the answers or that I think that ALL Fundamentalists fit my above description. I am simply reflecting on what I have observed on the fringes of Fundamentalism growing up at FBCH.

PT Barnum


William D said...

9-Marks materials have helped me greatly to de-toxify from all the man-centered gunk that has infested my philosophy of ministry for so many years growing up in IFBXdom! Good post. Thanks alot.

Burnin' Daylight said...

The ironic thing is, to insist on "staying the same" on certain externals is to be just as beholden to the world as being tossed about with every wind of doctrine.
The way some cultural fundamentalists operate is as follows: take a snapshot of a space in time, say around 1953, pick a couple of things out that were characteristic of the time, and then spit and sputter about those particulars, even as we are 7 years into the 21st century.
Meanwhile, they "change" on all sorts of other things, just not the couple of things they picked. And I'm not talking about doctrine or tenets of the faith. I'm talking about externals.
It's coming full circle now, though. As fewer and fewer Christians fall prey to the idea that there are a few 1950-something characteristics of American life that are part of holy writ, these "standards" are seen for the extra-biblical fluff that they are.
In the meantime, hopefully, there will be some historical fundamentalists who insist on holding fast to that which is truly unchangeable and being willing to be continually reformed in any and all areas of life where the Word and the Spirit leads.
Then the emphasis is on the Word of God and its application to the hearts of men, not some snapshot in time and not the word of "fiery preachers" who are more concerned about the social culture of their ministry feifdoms than a commitment to a never-ending pursuit of Christ and the truth of his Word.

Ichabod said...

Thanks for this post. I watched the thank you clip from FBCH's Pastor School this year and wished I attended. I appreciate what you have said here, and I did not know this was a book. I have heard of the webiste from Reforming Baptist. I'll check into the book.

PT Barnum said...

Thanks guys for your comments. I think that sometimes those within IFBxdom love being the "martyr" who is despised for their "old fashioned ways". Funny how the Catholics take so much fire from these same people--they are every bit as traditional on their preferences that they trumpet on a regular basis.

PT Barnum

LeeC said...

Yup, I pray that every month I can look back in timer and see my church as different than it was the month before. We aint done till we see Christ spotless bride.

It's tragic how hard so many of Gods children are resistant to change. Our purpose is to change.

PT Barnum said...


Thanks for sharing your thoughts. The IFBX I grew up in taught that change of any kind was a negative thing. I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard someone blather on about "not meddling with those given to change". Obviously we should not change on the cardinal doctrines of our faith! Changing on matters of preference or cultural issues is quite a different matter.

Come back and see us again!

PT Barnum

LeeC said...

I have a GARB background with some similar experiences (not that all of GARB is this way).
I have never understood it.

Sanctification = change
No change, no sanctification.

Certainly as you said changing on eternal truths of Scripture is bad, unless we are in error, but other than that who among us is perfect? If we are not perfect, then we are to change.

I confess that at times my wife and I even intentionally sit in the middle of some cliques pew section just to confuse them and see if they can handle sitting elsewhere. ;-)

Praise God we can tell them about it and all laugh at our church!

"The Captain" said...

If you spend your life battling Hyles and HFBC have you really left? Are they still controlling you and the only way you fight it is this blog? I am not trying to be rude, but there is a physcological trend that people can actually become the people they hate or who are seeking revenge for some wrong. Forgive and let it all go.
Indy Baptist seem to fight a great deal. I guess fighting has its place, but most of it seems kind of meaningless. Its odd that obesity runs rampant in churches when gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins and few preachers ever even say a word about it. Sad actually.
Iain Murray has 38 sermons on You might enjoy them.

PT Barnum said...

Thanks Captain for your opinion. I spend very little time on this blog but thanks for the advice. Your physiological or psychological analysis notwithstanding I think I will keep this little blog going in order to work my way through some of the issues I have with the cultural fundies. I agree that gluttony is a sin--I sure hope that Ian Murray preaches against it hard!

Come back and see us--maybe you could come back in a year and give us another free psychoanalysis! Just funning with you!

PT Barnum

"The Captain" said...

Mark Dever had iain murray on his show a few times. Actually if the blog makes you feel better than you should keep it going. My weight loss blog helps me lose weight. That is what blogging is all about. FBCH is not a church I would join. I have met some nice people who have gone to the college. In fundie ciricles the question of what do you think of Jack Hyles should not be the basis of fellowship. I guess I had a change of heart about your blog. Maybe I should see a pyschologist.

Joshua R said...

Captain Jeff,

Thanks for commenting and we do appreciate your opinion. What I would point out is that if you knew us personally you would probably be in better position to speak authoritatively as to whether we are indeed "bitter" or not. That said, I don't want to insinuate that there never has been bitterness---that can be a battle for all of us on occasion. I would also echo PT's point that this little blog is typically nothing more than therapeutic for people who have had similar backgrounds. I don't intend this to be inflammatory toward you but one of our major concerns is for those who have been disenchanted with spiritual matters altogether and been cast aside in the wake of a man-centered hyper-fundy ministry.

"The Captain" said...

Point well taken. My blog is about weight loss and it is really an attempt for me to stay focussed on losing weight. I shouldn't make statements about bitterness when I do not know you or whisler personally. Actually you sound like great guys. I would probably would rather hang out with you guys than the hfbc crowd. I just make the point that some people are extremely happy there. Feel free to post on my blog anytime on anything but hfbc because nobody but me would know what you are talking about.

Ichabod said...

Hey! Is Mark Dever paying you for three months of advertising his book or what? Miss your posts man! Get back to work!

Jeremy said...

“We need God’s Word to be saved, but we also need it to continually challenge and shape us. His Word not only gives us life; it also gives us direction as it keeps molding and shaping us in the image of the God who is speaking to us."

For someone that sat under the ministry of FBCH for multiple decades (and apparently can't get through one blog about anything other than FBCH)you'd think that you'd understand the difference between Mark Dever's explanation of "changing" and Jack Hyles/Jack Schaap's explantion. The former is a continual shaping by God to be in his image. The latter is the determination to never change from the "doctrines" that DO NOT change.

Of course, a perpetual desire to degrade, attack, and diminish the work of FBCH needs more fuel. Sometimes, you just make it up if it's not there, right?

In your epic quest to portray IFB as man-centered and far from the humility and meekness of Christ, not once do I read a humble experience of learning that you've received from God. Nor do you admit your short comings. Your persistent criticism makes clear the mental "ivory tower" upon which you've placed your philosophies and doctrines over those of people with whom you disagree. Jack Schaap's actions may translate as pride and gaudy number exaltation to you, but what do your constant criticisms translate about you to others?

I can't wait until FBCH falls, or changes to your thinking ... whichever you desire. Apparently, thanks to the learning I received on this site, it's the whole point of Christianity. Godspeed.
Please understand that my comment is in no way an attempt to sway you, change you, or get back at you. I'm no better than you are. Consider it a friendly "venting".

The best to you.

Michael M said...

You got some splanin' to do. Please tell me WHAT is an IFBX'er?

I am a newbie to the blog world and haven't a clue what that is?

To Jeremy in the post above, I can personally say that I am very thankful to have never been associated with Hyles or his methods.

Let be clear as to where I stand on this: FBCH has done more damage to the cause of Christ than any other present day entity. They have taken a salesmanship mentality to Salvation. If think I made that up, Google Zig Ziglar, motivational sales speaker, who pioneered the "yes" method of sales. Just get 'em saying yes. What an abomination. 123, repeat after me. 456, I hope it sticks. 789, I think I'm fine. 10, 11, 12, I wake up in hell. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

The reason so many people are talking about this is because of the plague this has spread across America.

By the way, in your statement you said "doctrines". If you would study the Word of God, you would know it's DOCTRINE (singular). Doctrines (plural) are always of men or of devils. I personally think you got it right in your post.

PT Barnum said...


Sorry it took me so long to notice your comment! Shame on me for being such an absentee ringmaster!

An IFBXer is someone who is committed to extreme fundamentalism. Typically these folks are very hung up on cultural issues and will separate from anyone who does not agree with them on these gray issues. Many times these folks will be King James Only and will berate anyone who uses any other English translation. They usually equate other English versions of the Bible as the "Devil's Bibles" and will not hesitate to rip them or destroy them in a public burning of sorts. There are many other identifiers but these are just a couple of the easiest ones to spot.

Thanks for visiting Bread and Circuses and come back often!

PT Barnum